When you fall in love with a person, you fall for who they are inside and out. When their personality, behaviors, or physical appearance changes drastically, it can threaten the relationship. I decided to ask a couple of people how they would feel if their long-term partners let themselves go and whether it would signal the end of the relationship. Here’s what they had to say.
- “It depends on how far they let themselves go.” Murphy, my 26-year-old cousin said it’d be a dealbreaker if it’s too big a change. If she becomes a person with alcohol abuse disorder, heavy smoker, gains over 50 pounds, or starts treating personal hygiene like a mere suggestion, then it’ll be time for a very tough discussion. And if she doesn’t make any efforts to get herself back together, then he’s walking out forever.
- “I’ll just try to help them work on the underlying issue.” “I think that when someone willfully starts letting themselves go, it’s often because of growing dissatisfaction with their own lives,” says my 29-year-old friend Stacey. “They could be sick, depressed, facing stress or trauma, or just deeply unhappy. I’m going to dig deeper and help them figure out the root cause of the problem so we can deal with it. I’m not ending a good relationship for that reason alone.”
- “People change over the years, it’s no big deal.” According to Ed, a guy who lives in my apartment complex, bodies tend to undergo all sorts of changes with time, some of which are motivated by circumstances beyond our control. He won’t expect his girlfriend to be or look the same way as five or 10 years ago. As long as he still loves her, nothing else matters. He’s going to support her through any changes, physical or otherwise, and make sure her overall health doesn’t suffer too much.
- “Ups and downs are normal in relationships and I’m willing to ride it out.” Leah, my wax technician, aged 30, says that she’s going to be worried and concerned watching her partner let herself go, but ceasing to want to be with her because of it is completely out of the question. “Maybe I’m being idealistic, but I think love should be strong than something as fickle as letting oneself go.”
- “Take care of yourself or I’m out.” Uche, a 32-year-old acquaintance of mine says that being comfortable in a relationship does not give anyone the unassailable right to let themselves go. “If you’re going to do that, then be prepared for me to walk out because he didn’t sign up for that. I’m not saying you have to look 100% all the time, but put some effort into maintaining good health and appearance. I don’t always want to go to the gym, but I force myself to because looking and feeling amazing is important to me.”
- Good physical health, hygiene, and appearance are non-negotiable for me. It may come off as shallow or vain, but looks and hygiene are a big deal that I absolutely cannot compromise on, says Samira, 25. I want to be attracted to the person I’m dating and if I no longer feel that way, it’d be a waste of both our times to keep the relationship going. I’m always trying to look good for my partner and I expect the same in return.
- “It’s a problem but not really a deal-breaker.” Keith, 27, says, “I think I’ll go on loving them no matter what, I just might not be physically attracted to them anymore. I’ll let them know that as gently and lovingly as possible and encourage them to change their habits so we can keep pursuing a healthy and happy relationship. As long as they’re willing to try to work on themselves, I’m not going anywhere.”
- “I can only put up with it for a while.” Marcus is an Uber driver I met recently. He’s 26 and a partner who lets themselves go in a relationship is a no-no for him. He’s a very active person who leads a healthy lifestyle, so putting up with someone who doesn’t is not going to work long term. “I’m not going to sit around and watch her drink herself to death or eat us out of food and home. Whatever it is, she gets a few chances to get her act right or watch me disappear.”
- “I’m not going to call it quits.” Natasha, a friend from college, says that she’s already been in a relationship where her partner let themself go, but she stood by him and they worked through it together. She thinks the experience brought them even closer and she knows that if she had been the one in his position, he wouldn’t have broken up with her either.